The goal for the Fort Lewis College community is, in late August, to have the campus look and feel normal. Everything that was there in late February before the virus arrived will be present when students return in two months.
In the face of slashed state funding, partially offset by a federal CARES boost, the college will reduce its spending when its fiscal year begins July 1. As President Tom Stritikus and the board of trustees showed a week ago, no programs or faculty will be cut. Both in-state and out-of-state tuition will be unchanged from last year, and there will be only slight increases in room and board. Significantly, enrollment, although the number is “soft,” looks to be stronger than at other institutions: a drop of 7.5%, perhaps, to just under 3,000.
As the college’s services are reduced or consolidated in order to better match enrollment, there will be permanent, temporary and furloughed staff reductions totaling about 23. Advising will become the responsibility of academic departments, scholarship management handled by finance, for example.
The great unknown is the following year, beginning July 1, 2021, and structural and budgeting changes have partially taken repeated reductions in support into consideration. That is wise.
In the face of cuts, there are new initiatives. Freshman-to-sophomore retention is always critical, and to increase that, the college will begin an effort to help freshmen embrace a group of possible classes to narrow their interests. The one-credit courses that put freshmen in small groups with a faculty member delivering a favorite topic will continue. Freshmen who need some help in math and English will arrive a week early.
Stritikus has been pleased with the cost reduction process, which he says has been transparent, aligned with the strategic plan and principles.
It looks to the Herald’s editorial board like FLC leadership has done a good job reshaping the college to reflect the budget challenges. Let the students arrive.